Bears Steal One From Vikings
Stolen or not, retrospectively, a win is a win. As the week goes on, we'll have plenty of time to analyze how the Bears played, and what it tells us about their upcoming games. One of the side effects of the White Sox fading before the Bulls start the pre-season, is that there is extra pressure on the Bears to carry sports conversations during the week. (Unless you're on the Sports Writers on TV. They could talk about 16" softball for 10 minutes. I love Bill Jauss. Sports Reporters just sucks in comparison.) But for now, enjoy the fact that the Bears are 3-0 with wins over each divisional foe.
Not only have the Bears beaten all three divisional opponents, but they've beaten two of them on the road. And one of those teams is the Minnesota Vikings, who are playing much better D than expected, and may be around for the long haul. Divisional wins are big, even when they come at the beginning of the season. The teams know each other well, which makes even big underdogs dangerous. There is animosity and intensity that is missing from some regular season games. And most of all, a win is a full game swing in the standings. The Bears have already created separation with all 3 division foes. That's a good feeling.
Also, one very important fact has emerged over these first three weeks. It deserves more analysis, but it's obvious to the naked eye. The Bears are great on special teams. Robbie Gould has been perfect thus far, Brad Maynard is booming the ball, the coverage teams are outstanding, and the return game is explosive. The capacity for this unit to execute was on display on the Bears' first kick return of the game, when Rashied Davis executed a perfect fake lateral, freezing two coverage players, and allowing Davis to flow easily up a seam opened by his blockers. The 35 yard return set up the Bears nicely to answer the Vikings' opening score. If you don't think special teams can win games, just ask the Colts or Jaguars.
Finally, one of my favorite moments of the game came when Vikings' end Ray Edwards came running onto the field late, reaching the line of scrimmage just as the ball was snapped. I, like Fox analyst Darryl Johnston, thought it was a well timed blitz from very deep in the secondary. My favorite part though was that John Tait, who presumably realized something odd was happening when (a) no one lined up across from him and (b) a defensive lineman arrived on a blitz from deep behind the line of scrimmage, calmly turned Edwards aside. The play never happened, but outstanding "blitz" pick-up by Tait ne'er-the-less.
Like I said, there will be plenty of time to analyze what happened Sunday, and look forward to next week, but one remark along those lines right now: The Bears and Seahawks are the two best teams in the NFC, and Shaun Alexander and Brian Urlacher may be the two best players in the conference. The real test arrives at 7:00 Chicago-time on October 1.